Saturday, 16 May 2009

A Rustic Love Making

As a wee change from the poems, here's a song entitled A Rustic Love Making by George Francis Savage Armstrong (1845-1906) from his Ballads Of Down (1901). Mark Thompson recently commented on his blog that I'd reminded him about Savage Armstrong's writings. Well, I'm glad he said that because I realised then that I hadn't actually posted any of his writings.

Unlike the majority of Ulster-Scots writers, Savage Armstrong was no homespun peasant. He was Professor of English and History, Queen’s College, Cork and a contender for Poet Laureate after Tennyson. He also wrote extensively on his mother’s family, the Savages of the Ards Peninsula (formerly of Portaferry Castle).

A Rustic Love Making

Noo, gie's a kiss, ye sonsie lass ...
Och, gie's a kiss fur kin'ness!
Yer beauty melts my heart like wex,
An' doits me nigh tae blin'ness.

Na! - Weel a ken the ways o' men;
The De'il fur mischief sent ye;
If yin a gied ye'd ax fur ten,
An ten wud ne'er content ye.

It's nae the merket-square ye're in,
But jist a lanesome by-way,
Saea tak' yer wee han' frae yer mooth,
An' ben' nae doon sae shyly.

Behave! The sun's ahint the brae;
A can nae langer stay, noo;
There, hau'd ye'er fingers frae my frills,
It's nae the time fur play, noo.

Yer lips ir, och, sae smooth an' swate!
An' whaur's the herm in this, noo?
Och, heth, ye're jist the rose o' June,
An' gie's a anither kiss, noo!

A tau'd ye this wud be yer game;
Ye'd keep fur aye embracin';
It's jist the ways uv a' yer kin',
Their tricks is nivver ceasin'!

Och, Natur' 't is that gi'es the law;
Mon's made tae luve the wumman,
The wumman's made fur mon tae luve
Noo, stay! There's naeyin comin'.

Luik, see! There's fow'k that gang this way
Whun gloamin'-time is nearin'
Come doon an' walk by Comber burn
That's oot o' sight an' hearin'!

A Pastoral In Praise of Allan Ramsay

Here's another one for all those who like to say Ulster-Scots is a recent invention. The earliest known writer of poetry in Ulster-Scots was William Starrat, a mathematics teacher of Strabane, County Tyrone. In 1722 he wrote a poetic letter to Scottish poet Allan Ramsay (1686-1758) and this, together with Ramsay's reply, was duly published, from an annotated version, in The Collected Works Of Allan Ramsay as Epistle From Mr William Starrat, Teacher of Mathematicks at Straban in Ireland.

A Pastoral In Praise Of Allan Ramsay

O'er ilka hedge it wildly bounds,
And grazes on forbidden grounds,
Where constantly like furious range
Poortith, diseases, death, revenge :
To toom anes poutch to daunty clever,
Or have wrang'd husband probe ane's liver,
Or void ane's saul out thro' a shanker,
In faith 't wad any mortal canker.

Then wale a virgin worthy you,
Worthy your love and nuptial vow ;
Syne frankly range o'er a' her charms,
Drink deep of joy within her arms;
Be still delighted with her breast,
And on her love with rapture feast.

May she be blooming, saft, and young,
With graces melting from her tongue ;
Prudent and yielding to maintain
Your love, as well as you her ain.

Thus with your leave, Sir, I've made free
To give advice to ane can gi'e
As good again : but as mass John
Said, when the sand tald time was done,
" Ha'e patience, my dear friends, a wee,
And take ae ither glass frae me ;
And if ye think there's doublets due,
I shanna bauk the like frae you."

AE windy day last owk, I'll ne'er forget,
I think I hear the hail-stanes rattling yet ;
On Crochan-buss my hirdsell took the lee,
As ane wad wish, just a' beneath my ee :
I in the bield of yon auld birk-tree side,
Poor cauldrife Coly whing'd aneath my plaid.
Right cozylie was set to ease my stumps,
Well hap'd with bountith hose and twa-sol'd pumps :
Syne on my four-hours luncheon chew'd my cood,
Sic kilter pat me in a merry mood ;
My whistle frae my blanket nook I drew,
And lilted owre thir twa three lines to you.
Blaw up my heart-strings, ye Pierian quines,
That gae the Grecian bards their bonny rhymes,
And learn'd the Latin lowns sic springs to play,
As gars the world gang dancing to this day.

In vain I seek your help ; 'tis bootless toil
With sic dead ase to muck a moorland soil ;
Give me the muse that calls past ages back,
And shaws proud southern sangsters their mistak,
That frae their Thames can fetch the laurel north,
And big Parnassus on the firth of Forth.

Thy breast alane this gladsome guest does fill
With strains that warm our hearts like cannel gill,
And learns thee, in thy umquhile gutcher's tongue,
The blythest lilts that e'er my lugs heard sung.
Ramsay ! for ever live; for wha like you,
In deathless sang, sic life-like pictures drew ?
Not he wha whilome with his harp cou'd ca'
The dancing stanes to big the Theban wa' ;
Nor he (shame fa's fool head !) as stories tell,
Cou'd whistle back an auld dead wife frae hell ;
Nor e'en the loyal brooker of bell trees,
Wha sang with hungry wame his want of fees ;
Nor Habby's drone, cou'd with thy wind-pipe please :
When, in his well-ken'd clink, thou manes the death
Of Lucky Wood and Spence, (a matchless skaith
To Canigate) sae gash thy gab-trees gang,
The carlines live for ever in thy sang.

Or when thy country bridal thou pursues,
To red the regal tulzie sets thy muse,
Thy soothing sangs bring canker'd carles to ease,
Some loups to Lutter's pipe, some birls babies.

But gin to graver notes thou tunes thy breath,
And sings poor Sandy's grief for Adie's death,
Or Matthew's loss, the lambs in concert mae,
And lanesome Ringwood yowls upon the brae.

Good God ! what tuneless heart-strings wadna twang,
When love and beauty animate the sang ?
Skies echo back, when thou blaws up thy reed
In Burchet's praise for clapping of thy head :
And when thou bids the paughty Czar stand yon,
The wandought seems beneath thee on his throne.
Now, be my saul, and I have nought behin,
And well I wat fause swearing is a sin,
I'd rather have thy pipe and twa three sheep,
Than a' the gowd the monarch's coffers keep.

Coly, look out, the few we have's gane wrang,
This se'enteen "owks I have not play'd sae lang ;
Ha ! Crummy, ha ! trowth I man quat my sang ;
But, lad, neist mirk we'll to the haining drive,
When in fresh lizar they get spleet and rive :
The royts will rest, and gin ye like my play,
I'll whistle to thee all the live-lang day.


Here's a wee poem I wrote a few years ago about the Balmoral Show.


Ilka May, thar’s twathie days whan kintra cums tae toon
An tha fairmin fowk o Ulstèr, lea hairth an hame ahint
It’s tha big Show at Balmoral, Bilfawst is whaur it’ at.
Sae gin ye hinnae bin afore, gae alang an see whut’s whut.

Thar’s traictors by tha dizzen, Massey Ferguson an John Deere
Pues an combine hairvisters – By Sowl, it’s aa here!
Thar’s aye sim weelads thonner (an ithers no sae wee)
Hingin roon tha stauns lik cleggs the’ ir, the’ dinnae want tae lea.

Whan ye hae yir fill o motòrs, hae a luk at aa tha bastes
Wi tups and yowes, an pïgs an soos, thar’s simthan fer aa tastes
Thar’s stirks an kye (sim moilies) nannie goats an coalie dugs
Turkeys, geese an banties, an a lock o doos an deuks.

An dinnae lee oot tha pownies, an brood meers wi foals in haun
Thar’s yearlins in tha showin ring, ach shure tha nivver staun
Thar’s trade turn-oots, cobs an Airish Draughts, side-seddle clesses an aa
An owre in tha Warkin-Hunnèr ring - thar’s aye a wheen tha’ faa.

Whaure’er ye luk thar’s ridin breeks, ir tweeds an Barbour jaickit
Wattèr buits, dunchers, tairtan shirts – fer fairmin thon’s tha ticket.
Fer aa them bastes ir gien a wash, thar’s aye sim dung aroon
Sae as y'ir gaun atweesht tha rings, tak guid tent whaur ye pit yer shune.

Mine, whan y'ir gaun roon as weel, tae use yer een an lugs
Fer fowk ir aye gaun aff tae see sim men aboot sim dugs!
Ye’ll affen hear sim quare guid crack, an mebbe mak a dale
Ir larn hoo tae bring tha barley in, an whit tae dae wi kail.

An aa ye sing’l menfowk, tak a luk at tha kintra quaens
Ye cud dae waur nor a fairmin lass, an ye’ll no leeve oan baked beans!
An whit aboot youse weeminfowk, gin yir oot tae cleek the yeir
Hae ye seen them boul big fairmers, wi thar shoodèrs oot tae here?

Sae whutivver taks yer fancy, jist tak yersel aff thonner
An gie a thocht tae tha fairmer, whan neist ye mak tha dïnner
Fer he growes tha craps an rares tha mate tae feed oor sins an dochters
An it’s fowk like him tha’ mine tha lan fer ithers tae cum eftèr us.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

A Country Lad's Observations At The Hiring Fair In Ballymena

Here's another Ulster-Scots poem - A Country Lad's Observations At The Hiring Fair In Ballymena, written in November 1899 by County Antrim poet Adam Lynn from Random Rhymes From Cullybackey (Belfast, 1911).

A Country Lad's Observations At The Hiring Fair In Ballymena

Weel, freens, A gat me tae the toon,
Although big clouds were hoverin' roon,
An whiles an odd yin did come doon
Tae we got drack'd;
Yet mony a sinburnt-luckin' croon
Seem'd tae be cracked.

The hale toon seemd tae be aware
That Sethurday wus Hiring Fair,
And that ferm-servants wud be there
For a big day,
Who meant tae hae a treat sae rare
Wae six months' pay.

Here and there wus a wee ban'
The centre-piece a big ould man,
What maks' his leevin' off the lan'
Without a doot;
Bit see him view the horny han'
'Ere he spak' oot.

"Tell me, my man, noo can you sow,
And can you milk, and plough, and mow,
And build a load of hay or stro'
For market day?
If you can do these things, say so
I'll fix your pay."

The toon assumed its usual gait,
Folk mashing roon at nae wee rate,
Each luckin' for there ain dear mate
In blank despair;
And so may I if I keep blate
To the next Fair.

The Weaver Question

I've always had an interest in the history of hand-loom weaving in Ulster, as at least four successive generations of my Newtownards male ancestors (and some of the females) were hand-loom weavers, right up to the 1950s. Indeed, I still have a wee pram rug which my great-grandfather Hugh McDonald wove for my father in 1929. Hugh's obituary states, "He was one of the old hand loom weavers, working in his own home weaving fine linens, but latterly weaving tweeds and tartans for both local firms [including James Mairs of Newtownards and Hugh Mack of Belfast] and the Scottish house of Peter MacArthur & Co" [still trading in Biggar, Lanarkshire] Talk about taking coals to Newcastle! The family death notice also included the following excerpt from a poem entitled The Weaver by Benjamin Malachi Franklin (1882-1965)

Not till the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Shall God unroll the canvas
And explain the reason why.

Continuing the weaving theme, here's a wee Ulster-Scots poem called The Weaver Question by Thomas Given (c1850-1917) taken from G R Buick's Poetical Works Of The Brothers Given (Belfast, 1900). Thomas was a farmer from Cullybackey in County Antrim and one of three poetry-writing brothers. There is no indication that he ever worked as a weaver himself, but it's clear that he was familiar with the terminology and the issues of the trade. As Edward Sloan's poem The Weaver's Triumph also shows, life was not always easy for the weavers.

The Weaver Question by Thomas Given

We read o' meetings to support
The risin' nerra-guage,
Which is to be the strength and fort
O' every comin' age.
We read o' controversies lang.
O' puirhoose jaw and vapour,
But seldom does the weavers' wrang
Bedeck the public paper
On ony day.

Oor wabs are lang an' ill to weave -
Sometimes the yarn is bad -
Till scanty claes, wi' ragget sleeve,
Is seen on lass an' lad.
But noo guid fortune we'll attain,
For orators sae thrifty
Will gar the dreeper clip his chain
Wa' doon tae twa-an'-fifty
On ilka day.

Queels maun be wun when claith is wroucht,
An' pickers, shears an' treadles,
Tallow an' temples maun be boucht,
An' floor tae dress the heddles.
Then meat tae gar the wee yins leeve,
Maun come as weel's the tackle,
But shure the wages we receive
Wud hardly buy them treacle
Tae meal this day.

How aisy 'tis for men tae preach
Whun riches they hae got,
An' wae self-interest's purse-hurt screech,
Ca' us a sinfu' lot.
But, haud a wee! Ye men o' wealth!
Though noo for breath yer pantin',
We ax nae favours gained by stealth -
It's justice that we're wantin' -
Nae mair this day.

I ne'er was blessed wae gift o' gab,
Like some great learned men,
Instead o' school, I wove my wab,
Before that I was ten.
Though noo I'm auld an' gray's my hair,
I've studied weel the sense o't
For work let us get wages fair,
Nae matter 'boot the length o't
On ony day.